Capital punishment upheld for Vietnamese man in land dispute killing

By Thien Nhan   July 13, 2018 | 12:15 am GMT+7

Court rejects defendant’s self-defense appeal as well as pleas filed by victims’ families to commute the death sentence. 

The court rejected the appeal of Dang Van Hien, 42, after judges concluded that the consequences of his crime were too grave. Photo by VnExpress

The court rejected the appeal of Dang Van Hien, 42, after judges concluded that the consequences of his crime were too grave. Photo by VnExpress

A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday upheld the death sentence handed down to a Vietnamese man for killing three people over a land dispute in the Central Highlands' province of Dak Nong in 2016.

The court rejected the appeal of Dang Van Hien, 42, with the judges saying that the consequences of his crime were too grave and there was insufficient reason to commute his death sentence.

The judges also rejected appeals filed by families of two of the victims that Hien’s death sentence be commuted.

After the sentencing, dozens of Hien's relatives surrounded the courthouse's gate and pleaded in tears that the sentence be reconsidered as it was too harsh, given the circumstances.

Hiens relatives surrounded the courthouses gate and begged for his sentence, which they said is too harsh, to be reconsidered. Photo by VnExpress

Hien's relatives surrounded the courthouse's gate and begged for his sentence, which they said is too harsh, to be reconsidered. Photo by VnExpress

However, Hien's two accomplices in the shooting, who got 20 and 12 years in prison, had their sentences reduced to 18 and nine years respectively, while a defendant convicted of helping Hien escape following the shooting had his nine-month prison term reduced to a suspended sentence.

Two other people convicted of destroying property during the incident also had their six and four-year sentences reduced by two years each.

According to the indictment, Dak Nong authorities in early 2008 granted 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of forest land to Long Son Company, a private firm, for a forestry project.

In June 2013, the company put Nghiem Xuan Thien Suu in charge of the project. Suu soon got into heated disputes with several families, including Hien’s, who’d planted cashew and coffee on the project's land.

When local authorities were unable to resolve the conflict, Suu decided to reclaim the land from the farmers by force.

On October 23, 2016, Suu gathered a group of 30 workers and security guards and entered the disputed land with weapons and machines to raze the plantations cultivated by three families, one of them Hien’s.

Hien attempted to deter Suu's men from destroying his farm by firing warning shots with a hunting rifle. The men retaliated by threw rocks, prompting him to retreat and shoot back, with his accomplices supplying him with bullets.

The shooting resulted in three of Suu's men being killed and another 13 getting injured. Hien subsequently fled to the southern province of Binh Phuoc to hide, before turning himself in a few days later.

Last January, a court in Dak Nong sentenced Hien to death for the shooting. He subsequently filed an appeal claiming the sentence was too harsh and asked the court to take into consideration the fact that he was only retaliating against illegal actions of the private company.

Land disputes remain the main source of public grievances and protests in Vietnam.

They accounted for 70 percent of all complaints lodged with the government in 2012, according to a parliamentary report. They remain the top reason for complaints by Vietnamese civilians, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had affirmed at a meeting last December.

 
 
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